Archive | October 2010

No one knows you’re up there…

In my last post I mentioned that telling other people about my Canadian adventure was making it seem all too real, however nothing could prepare me for the trauma that was to take grip after watching Adam Green’s Frozen (2010)[1] on DVD last week.  Without giving anything away for those of you who haven’t seen it, Frozen tells the tragic tale of three skier/snowboarders who find themselves stuck on a ski lift after the slope has been closed down for the week.  If you don’t want to know what happens when someone jumps off a ski lift, don’t watch this film (or look at the back of the DVD case).  It’s not pretty.

Funnily enough, despite moving to Canada it wasn’t the thought of actually being stuck on a ski lift that terrified the living daylights out of me (I’m planning on going snowboarding a few times but I’m not doing a full on ski season), more the knowledge that if I was to find myself in a sticky situation, my family would be a 10 hour flight away.  I will of course be in the more than capable hands of my horror film obsessed boyfriend (who knows all the rules and would make sure I won my fight for survival as the final girl), but the thought of being in a different country to my family just makes breaking a limb, getting burgled or catching some sort of airborne illness seem all the more terrifying.  Of course, these are minor ailments compared to being stuck on a ski lift for 5 days and nights (depending on the airborne illness), but still.

Frozen (2010): How not to end a Sunday on the slopes

Realistically I am fully aware that Vancouver is really not that far, and a 10 hour flight is nothing compared to the likes of Australia or New Zealand.  On a bad day it can take me 5 hours to drive to my parents’ house from home, and the fastest I could get to Edinburgh on a coach is 11hrs 50 minutes.  Unfortunately such logic and rational thinking does not always prevail at 4am in the dark when one is convinced they can hear wolves in the kitchen.

After thinking for far too long about endless ‘what could go wrong’ scenarios, I have come to the conclusion that the answer is: anything.  Indeed, anything could go wrong in Vancouver, but it could also go wrong in Southampton (my house). Or Ipswich (my parents’ house).  Or anywhere else in the UK at any time whilst I’m getting on with my everyday life.  And if I was on a bus in Edinburgh when the unthinkable happened, it would take me even longer to get home than from Vancouver.  Worrying about what could happen abroad is silly, unnecessary and counterproductive, and I hereby resign to move on from this phase of the emigration thought process.

Saying that, maybe I’ll walk the Grouse Grind[2] up to the top of the mountain instead of taking the chair lift when I first go snowboarding, just in case. No point tempting fate is there?

[1] Frozen is out on DVD in the UK now:

[2] The Grouse Grind is a 2.9km trail up the face of Grouse Mountain:


Useful Resources #3 – The Sensible Girl’s Guide to Emigrating Elegantly

Sally Corner, The Sensible Girl’s Guide to Emigrating Elegantly (London: A & C Black, 2010)

The Sensible Girl’s Guide to Emigrating Elegantly is genuinely unique in its approach to emigration, focussing on the ‘fun, fabulous and feminine’ aspects in addition to the decidedly less so.  As the title suggests it’s written for females, and covers key emigration issues such as what to do if your friends react badly to your leaving, what to wear to the airport and how to deal with homesickness when you arrive.  Of course there is all the practical information about visas and red tape, how to tie up loose ends before you go and what to take with you to YNC (Your New Country), but the extra advice about the less documented, emotional side of moving abroad is honest and refreshing.

The book is set out in a chronological style, taking the reader all the way from choosing a country to move to, to making friends when you’ve settled in.  Quizzes, check lists and questionnaires are interspersed by the author’s own real-life emigration fairy tale (complete with happy Australia based ending) and some funny, original illustrations.  It covers all the little details that you might not think of otherwise (like what to include in your hand luggage), but that really make a difference to the emigration process.  Regardless of where in the world you’re moving to, this book will prove indispensable at every stage of the journey.


The Sensible Girl's Guide to Emigrating Elegantly


Where can I find it? A range of book shops (including Waterstones), however I purchased mine from Amazon  for £7.49.

Good Points: Everything about this book is fantastic, however the checklists are particularly useful.  Whether it’s what to pack, how to sort out your healthcare or what you should have sorted two weeks before you go, they’re incredibly comprehensive and you will definitely use them.

Bad Points: If you’re a girl, none. If you’re a boy you will probably consider this book confusing, unnecessary and downright bizarre; that’s why it’s not for you.

From Fantasy to Reality

So now I’ve booked my flights, told my employer and started clearing out my flat, it’s come the time to tell my family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and anyone else who stands still long enough to listen.  All I’ve done for the past 18 months is talk about how I want to live in Canada and I’m ‘hoping’ to be going out for a year in January 2011 (all the while covering my back with ready-made excuses in case it didn’t happen), so now it’s actually happening I thought the first thing I’d want to do is shout it from the rooftops to anyone and everyone in earshot.

Whilst that’s true, and I definitely have been (well, shouting it silently from Facebook and Twitter at any rate), telling other people about my plans has had one effect that I didn’t expect – it’s made me really, genuinely nervous for the first time.  Obviously I’ve thought my decision to go on a working holiday through properly, taking into account everything that could go wrong, but I’ve never really seriously considered that I would have anything but the world’s most amazing time.  Telling other people about my plans has transformed them from a warm and cosy fantasy inside my head to a somewhat colder reality; it all seems very real all of a sudden.

I wonder why everyone wants to come and visit...

Saying that, I have been very lucky with my responses, and the vast majority of people I’ve told have been overwhelmingly positive, full of advice, and incredibly excited for me.  My family have been very supportive of my decision (although I’m not sure they believed I’d actually go through with it) and my parents are already making plans to come and visit for the end of the ski season in March.  So many friends have said they want to come and visit, and I really hope that some of them do.

If anyone else out there is planning a similar adventure but didn’t quite get the response they were hoping for, hang on in there.  Ultimately, you’re not choosing to do this because it’s what your friends and family want to do, you’re doing it because it’s what you want to do.  I appreciate that’s easy for me to say as I’ve been so lucky with my responses, but I do honestly believe that the power of positive thinking can get you anywhere.  If you’re lacking that, a working holiday visa can help too.

“I’ve got some exciting news…”

I didn’t think I’d be writing this post just yet, but this week I told my manager that I will be leaving work at Christmas.  I didn’t actually hand in my notice as I only have to give one month in writing (and I’ve got 2 months, 2 weeks and 1 day until I leave….but who’s counting?) however I made the decision to give informal, advanced notice to my colleagues.

I initially wasn’t planning on saying anything until the end of October at least, but I was keen to give my department time to start the recruitment process for my replacement as early as possible and ensure that a comprehensive handover procedure can be put into place.  That and I’d already told a few of the colleagues I’m closest to, word was starting to spread, and the thought of my managers finding out from someone else other than me scared me into making a snap decision.

How not to tell your manager...

It wasn’t the best timing I admit.  We recently lost three staff in a spate of voluntary redundancies, one colleague is leaving at Christmas to go on maternity leave, and another handed in her notice this week to also leave at Christmas.  However, I took the plunge and went for the ‘I’ve got some exciting news..!’ approach, rather than starting with an apology and coming across as negative from the outset.  Luckily it paid off, my manager was incredibly supportive of my decision, and very happy for me.  She has worked abroad herself, so fully understood my reasons for wanting to leave, and instantly gave me so much helpful advice.

Now it’s out in the open it is somewhat of a relief, but has also made my dream of two years seem rather more real.  For the first time the nerves are starting to kick in, and I’m beginning to realise how quickly the next 2 months, 2 weeks and 1 day are going to fly by.  On that note, I’d better get back to work…


My life in colour coded categories

I’ve been adamant all week that this weekend would be a productive one, and if keeping my own promises wasn’t enough to spur me on the sudden realisation that I’m moving out of my flat in 11 weeks today has succeeded in whirling me into a cleaning, sorting frenzy (think Monica from friends but replace the extreme organisation with extreme panic).

My plans for the holiday season are as follows: Move out of flat on Sunday 19th December with help from parents who will be transporting my worldly goods to their house for storage; stay with friends from Sunday 19th until Thursday 23rd December, during which time I need to go to work; leave work for Christmas (and for good!) on the 23rd and get the train to parents house; stay at parents house until January 11th when I will arrive at London Heathrow suitably packed with everything I need (and nothing more) for my working holiday.

I’m going to make somewhat of a large generalisation and assume that the vast majority of 18-30 year olds in possession of a working holiday visa are either living with parents or in private rented accommodation (like me), which means that moving out in itself is relatively easy.  All I have to do is give my lettings agency one month’s notice in writing, which is a doddle compared to the stress of having to sell/rent out a house had I been in the position to own one (which I most definitely am not).

Modern, two bed flat for rent, fully furnished including one disorganised traveller...

The only niggle in my plan stems from the fact that successfully departing from my flat, sending my belongings home to my parent’s attic, and staying with friends for my last week at work all require me to have sorted my belongings into the following categories:

a)      Things I don’t want or need, that nobody else will want or need either, and are therefore destined for the rubbish bin (skip loads).

b)      Things I don’t want or need, but may have some small financial value and can attempt to sell via a bar boot sale/ebay/gumtree (a good few boxes).

c)       Things I definitely want and need, but am not intending to take to Canada with me so will pack up for storage at my parent’s house (boxes, bags and overflowing bin liners).

d)      Things I cannot live without and will be lugging with me on the plane (two suitcases).

e)      Things I may not be taking with me but will need when I stay at a friend’s house for a week, and also taking home on the train (small holdall).

A friend suggested I apply to go on Cash in the Attic, which sounded like a great idea except I don’t have an attic, everything in my modern, two bed flat is less than five years old, and I imagine they have a turnaround time of more than 11 weeks per episode.

Alas, there is nothing for it but to embrace my inner Monica, invest in some seriously strong bin liners and start the sorting process.  I am more than a bit of an organisation freak, so if it all gets too much I’ll concentrate instead on making pretty, colour-coded labels for each of my categorised boxes until the panic subsides and I can continue pulling long lost treasures from under my bed. I think I’ll start with the spare room. Deep breath now…!